who can give up essential
liberty to obtain a little temporary
safety, deserve neither liberty
-- Benjamin Franklin
"All governments lie and nothing
say should be believed."
"Power tends to corrupt, and
absolute power corrupts
absolutely. Great men
almost always bad men."
1. Keith Alexander Unplugged: On
Bush/Obama, 1.7 Mllion
Stolen Documents, et al.
Giants Blast FCC Chairman's Attack on "Free and
3. House Committee Votes Unanimously to Rein
In the NSA
4. Thanks to Snowden, House
Moves Forward on
5. “Marx? I never really
managed to read it” – an interview
with Thomas Piketty
6. MPs: Snowden files are
'embarrassing indictment' of
British spying oversight
7. A bit more on philosophy
This is the Nederlog of May 9.
It is a crisis issue, but not quite: the last item
continues the discussion of philosophical books I started yesterday.
1.Keith Alexander Unplugged: On Bush/Obama, 1.7
Mllion Stolen Documents, et al.
The first item is
article by Glenn Greenwald that I found on Common Dreams but originates
on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:
long-time NSA chief, Gen. Keith Alexander, recently traveled to
Australia to give a remarkably long and wide-ranging interview with an
extremely sycophantic “interviewer” with The Australian
Financial Review. The resulting
17,000-word transcript and accompanying
article form a model of uncritical stenography journalism, but
Alexander clearly chose to do this because he is angry, resentful, and
feeling unfairly treated, and the result is a pile of quotes that are
worth examining, only a few of which are noted below:
Yes, indeed: He is
"angry, resentful, and
feeling unfairly treated", and may also sorely miss his inspiring Star
Trek office. Anyway, here is one of his observations (and the following
is a quotation):
Greenwald has some
things to say about it, but he agrees with it, and so do I. I will
quote one more bit, mainly because it is a really valid point:
were the key differences for you as director of NSA serving under
presidents Bush and Obama? Did you have a preferred commander in chief?
Obviously they come from different parties, they view things
differently, but when it comes to the security of the nation and making
those decisions about how to protect our nation, what we need to do to
defend it, they are, ironically, very close to the same point.
You would get almost the same decision from both of them on key
questions about how to defend our nation from terrorists and
Yes indeed: in the mind
of Keith Alexander, generals are heroes, and journalist who try to
document their killings are terrorists.
(...) . . . . At the end of the day, I believe peoples’ lives will
be lost because of the Snowden leaks because we will not be able to
protect them with capabilities that were once effective but are now
being rendered ineffective because of these revelations.
There are few things in
life more ironic than being accused by U.S. Generals,
including those who participated in the war in Iraq, of being
responsible for the loss of lives. For that sort of irony, nothing will
beat that episode where the US Pentagon chief and Chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff announced that WikiLeaks – not themselves, but
WikiLeaks – has
“blood on its hands” by virtue of publishing documents about
the U.S. war in Afghanistan. In the world of the U.S. National Security
State and its loyal media, those who go around the world killing
innocent people over and over are noble and heroic, while those who
report on what they do are the ones with “blood on their hands”.
Anyway: There is considerably more under the last dotted link,
including the announcement that Greenwald's next book will be out on
2. Tech Giants Blast FCC Chairman's Attack on
"Free and Open Internet"
The next item is an
article by Jon Queally on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:
strongly-worded letter to the Federal Communications Commission
delivered on Wednesday, over 100 internet companies and industry
Google, Twitter, Facebook, Netflix and Amazon—called on the FCC
commissioners to reject recently proposed rules that threaten net
neutrality as it urged them to protect the concept of "a free and open
There is a lot more under
the last dotted link, and this seems good (as FCC chhairman Wheeler
seems extremely bad, and also uses Obama's ways of speaking: he is all
for "freedom" and "neutrality" but you cannot believe him).
Committee Votes Unanimously to Rein In the NSA
starts as follows:
next item is an article by Kevin Drum on Mother Jones:
more under the link. I do not think I am as elated as Kevin Drum, but
it is some good news, and what he says at the end is also true:
It's pretty hard to find
non-depressing news out of Washington DC these days, but this genuinely qualifies:
Judiciary Committee on Wednesday voted 32-0 to approve an amended
version of the USA Freedom Act, a bill that would require the National
Security Agency to get case-by-case approval from the Foreign
Intelligence Surveillance Court before collecting the telephone or
business records of a U.S. resident.
....The USA Freedom
Act, introduced last October, would prohibit bulk collection under the
business-records provision of the Patriot Act, the law cited by NSA and
Department of Justice officials as giving them authority for the
telephone records collection program exposed by leaks from former NSA
contractor Edward Snowden.
The bill would also
prohibit bulk collection targeting U.S. residents in parts of another
statute, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which the NSA has
used largely to target overseas communications. The bill would take the
phone records database out of NSA control and leave the records with
the first time in decades that the national security establishment has
been restrained in any significant way. And no matter what else you
think of Edward Snowden, this never would have happened without him.
Snowden, House Moves Forward on Anti-Spying Legislation
next item is an article by Andrea Germanos on Common Dreams, who
reports on the same fact as the previous item:
starts as follows:
curb government surveillance moved
forward in the House on Wednesday, a move cautiously welcomed by
privacy advocates who say it's still lacking needed reforms.
is considerably more critical than was Kevin Drum, and I think rightly
so. There are several more criticisms for which you have to consult the
last dotted link. I merely copy what is said about Thomas Drake's
A revised version of the
USA Freedom Act, put forth by by Patriot act author Jim Sensenbrenner
(R-Wisc.), received bipartisan approval from the House Judiciary
Committee in yesterday's vote, passing unanimously.
Former NSA employee and
whistleblower Thomas Drake also criticized the legislation, denouncing
it in an exclusive interview with UPI
as "totally compromised." The USA Freedom Act, which absorbs White
House proposals, just looks better in the face of the competing
legislation, he said.
As Reuters reported,
the USA Freedom Act "would end the NSA's gathering information about
telephone calls and storing them for at least five years. It would
instead leave the records with telephone companies."
So, "it ends up basically
outsourcing mass surveillance strategy," Drake said. "We don’t hold
[metadata], we don’t create it or manipulate it, we have access to it.
So where’s the reform? That’s faux reform," he said.
I never really managed to read it” – an interview with Thomas Piketty
next item is an article by Isaac Chotiner on The New Republic:
It is indeed an
interview with Thomas Piketty. I am mostly interested in the bit quoted
in the title: In fact, Piketty did read "The Communist Manifest" but
I have also read a
piece that insisted he did read Marx, but I believe he stated the
truth, and indeed "Capital"
is not easy (and a much better way to get some mathematical
grasp of Marx's theories is by reading Steedman's "Marx
6. MPs: Snowden files are 'embarrassing indictment' of British
next item is an article by Alan Travis on The Guardian:
starts as follows:
I say -
but Vaz is right. There is a lot more under the last dotted link, but
the main thing to realize is that this is a report by a committee,
which only proposes recommendations.
disclosures of the scale of mass surveillance are
"an embarrassing indictment" of the weak nature of the oversight and
legal accountability of Britain's security and intelligence agencies,
MPs have concluded.
A highly critical report
by the Commons home affairs select committee MI5, MI6 and GCHQ, arguing that the
current system is so ineffective it is undermining the credibility of
the intelligence agencies and parliament itself.
published on Friday calls for a radical reform of the current system of
The MPs say the current
system was designed in a pre-internet age when a person's word was
accepted without question. "It is designed to scrutinise the work of
George Smiley, not the 21st-century reality of the security and
intelligence services," said committee chairman, Keith Vaz. "The
agencies are at the cutting edge of sophistication and are owed an
equally refined system of democratic scrutiny. It is an embarrassing
indictment of our system that some in the media felt compelled to
publish leaked information to ensure that matters were heard in
7. A bit more on
I yesterday published a
brief piece on philosophy with a list of thinkers and writers, and
wanted to say some more, namely about the list, and about my reasons
for saying truly intelligent men can do little better than read those
on the list.
First about the list.
It was all drawn up spontaneously and fast, and I certainly have made
more such lists in different parts of my life. However, these will
probably not differ very much from the list I presented yesterday.
But one thing does come with spontaneous and fast lists: it is easy to
miss some names, and two I missed are C.D. Broad and W.E. Johnson,
both Englishmen, both mostly active in the first half of the 20th
Century. They really belong on the list, for I really liked their
One reason Broad is missing is that I only found his "The mind and
place in nature" in 1987, and "Five Types of Ethical Theory"
in 1998 -
and I also should say I normally bought the books of the
authors on the
list, and dated them when I bought them, and I also bought nearly all
of them second hand, mainly because I am and always was poor, while
also a good second hand bookshop tends to be a lot better than
bookshop that only sells recent books. (And good second hand book shops
are one of the main reasons I like cities.)
Second, about why truly intelligent men can do little better than read
books by the authors on the list.
Socrates said - according to Plato, whom I read but disagree too much
with to have him on the list - that "the unexamined life is not worth
living", and something like that does cover a part of my reasons, but
by no means all.
The main reasons are that (1) reading good books is one of the greatest
pleasures there is and that (2) nearly all authors I mention were -
also - at least good and quite often excellent writers, while (3) all
have interesting ideas of a philosophical kind: they all try to answer
some of the questions any truly intelligent person asks anyway (and
finds hard to answer).
Third, about true intelligence.
This really is a necessary condition for reading a good part of the
list with understanding and appreciation. But I do not know how to
define it, except that it is rare in my experience, in which I never
met anyone who had read a good part of the authors on the list,
not in 64 years. (And I have spend a lot of time in the university.)
So yes, the list is for rare persons only, I fear. But for these it
must be considerably better than any academic study,
because of the qualities of both the thoughts and the texts - for no:
you will not get most of this in any academic study,
including that of philosophy (which I recommend you do not
study, or only as a secondary study: mathematics or physics are much
better, as academic disciplines).
 Here it is necessary to insist, with
Aristotle, that the governors do not
rule, or at least, should not rule: The laws rule, and the
if good, is part of its executive power. Here I quote Aristotle from my
More on stupidity, the rule of law, and Glenn
It is more proper
that law should govern than any one of the
citizens: upon the same principle, if it is advantageous to place the
supreme power in some particular persons, they should be appointed to
be only guardians, and the servants of the laws.
(And I note the whole file I
from is quite pertinent.)
(that I prefer
to call M.E.: The "/CFS" is added to facilitate search machines) which
is a disease I have since 1.1.1979: